This is the bit that really gets the adrenaline flowing. When you have to think on your feet and wing-it in the face of adversity.
You can plan all you want and dry-run all you want. When push comes to shove and you have to stand up in front of your boss, or the customer, or the board and demo, or explain, or show something; be it the fruits of your team’s labour, your product or your project’s finances, all eyes will be on you or your nominated demo-monkey as you peddle your wares to the assembled throng. Presenting can be a terrifying time for the best of people but with practice, it can be mastered.
However it’s when it all goes wrong and believe us, with technical solutions, it will, that’s when you will properly earn your stripes as a manager. Now, it may or may not be you that’s presenting, but your reputation and that of your team will likely be affected by the outcome of the presentation/demo. So you’d better be ready to jump in and save the day at zero notice.
The key is preparation, think it through. Like in sports, run the play in your head, think of what could happen, assume it does happen, what would you do? What else could happen, what would you do then?
It may mean you need a backup presentation to run if the demo fails, or another demo, or a back story. Have your presentation on a CD or pen-drive in case your laptop packs in. Maybe you take an extra projector of your own, or make sure you have a flip-chart available in the event of a bulb failure. Or even something as simple as having your own whiteboard pens in your bag. Think it through.
When you have to jump in and rescue the event, you’ll be glad you did.
Don’t panic. Really, just don’t. Sure, big problems do happen and you may have to take action and say that it is urgent/critical/non-negotiable (perhaps even using bold) and escalate to the Gods, but choose the times to do this carefully.
No one likes it when you go bananas about something that really isn’t that important. No one will listen to you if you do it too often. Time will come when you do have a real issue and the villagers simply won’t be around to help.
On the flip-side, if you see people over-reacting in this way, try shouting ‘WOLF!’ at them. Everyone else will love it and you’ll get the point across. Unless they don’t know their fables, in which they’ll just be a little freaked out, which is good enough.
If you’ve been in IT for more than ten minutes, you’ll have been to a workshop. Back in the eighties, they were all the rage, along with all the buzzword bingo terms, like brainstorming, facilitators, synergism, leveragability, etc. (note, if you’re looking these up…)
Nowadays, some people still insist on getting everyone together for a ‘workshop’, at every available opportunity, to ensure everyone is ‘on the same page’, ‘singing off the same sheet’, etc. The trouble with 95% of the these workshops is that the people running them don’t actually know how to run a workshop and it ends up being one of two things – a happy-clappy back-slapping session about how good everyone is because no one wants to be controversial, or an all out bitching session about everyone and everything in the company. Neither of these actually achieve anything and the true sign of having attended one of these is that the closing comments of the ‘facilitator’ will most likely be “I’ll send an invite to the follow-up workshop/wash-up/break-out groups, when I get back to my desk.
Here’s a couple of definitions:
A workshop is a method used to collate practical input from multiple contributing parties to achieve an end-goal, using appropriate tools and techniques to achieve this objective.
A workshop is not:
- a platform to allow you to tell people about something – that’s a presentation
- a mechnism to show people how the system (will) works – that’s a demonstration
- a place for a team to discuss things – that’s a meeting
- a method to teach people how to do/use something – that’s a training course
- an end-of-season stationery-cupboard frenzy, using as many flip charts, markers, yellow stickies and coloured dots as possible.
Most of them will be a waste of time and achieve pretty much nothing, so if you have to go to them you will have to make the best of them. This is where a good-guy can excel; by demonstrating his grasp of what’s going on and using it to ensure the best positioning for his project, even if the workshop has nothing in the slightest to do with his project.
Most of the time however, the best thing about a workshop will be the free lunch.